Coffee Brewing Blunders

Brewed Coffee in a Chemex with the text Common Brewing Blunders overlaid in the center

Even coffee professionals make coffee brewing blunders on occasion. Everybody makes mistakes and when it comes to coffee, mistakes (or inattention more than likely) can make a stellar coffee less than great at any point, from the coffee farm to the coffee in your cup.

Coffee mill workers hand sort green coffee beans for optimal quality

Let us assume your coffee was grown under excellent conditions, with good soil and climate and all the agronomic skill that specialty coffee deserves. Then the coffee was guided through processing and milling by expert hands, including the sorting out of coffee beans that were anything other than outstanding. Then, well assume, the green coffee was roasted by more skilled and experienced hands who have worked hard to ensure each coffee is roasted to its optimal flavor profile. Finally, when you purchased the whole bean coffee, lets assume it is freshly roasted, just days rather than weeks out of the roaster. Now its up to you. Its just you, your fresh roasted coffee, and your brewing equipment. Dont be nervous; just try to avoid these common coffee brewing blunders.

Fingers pinch coffee grounds to examine their consistency and size

Coffee Brewing Blunder #1 Wrong Grind

Ideally, you are grinding your coffee just prior to brewing to ensure the freshest brew possible. If you cant grind just moments before brewing, were not going to call that a blunder because more often than not it is a simple necessity. Just remember, grinding just prior to brewing with a burr grinder is optimal. Whenever you grind your coffee, you could be committing coffee brewing blunder number one, the wrong grind. Brewing coffee is fundamentally a recipe of time, turbulence, and temperature. Different brewing methods toss this recipe together in different ways and each has its ideal grind exposing the right amount of surface area to water for proper extraction of soluble material (i.e. the brown part of your coffee). Sounds complicated but not to worry. We have developed a handy guide to grinding that will help you even if the grinder youre using doesnt have brew-method icons. It will help you avoid grinding gaffes.

Ground coffee seen from above in a kalita wave manual brewer

Coffee Brewing Blunder #2 Wrong Ratio

By ratio, we mean the right amount of coffee grounds and the right amount of water. This is not about strength to taste. As with grind, the right ratio is about proper extraction. Use two (2) tablespoons for every six (6) ounces of water. If you experience the coffee as too strong, the first thing to do is KEEP DRINKING IT. We promise you, this ratio is giving you optimal flavor and your palate will align. If after a short time you feel you are not gaining an appreciation for coffee brewed at this ratio, dont change the recipe. Instead, brew the coffee at the proper ratio and then add hot water to taste once the coffee is brewed. Always get the ratio right!

A gooseneck kettle pours hot water over coffee grounds in a clever dripper coffee maker.

Coffee Brewing Blunder #3 Wrong Temperature

Our third common coffee brewing blunder is alluded to under blunder #1, brewing with the wrong temperature water. Water should not be boiling, not hotter than 205, and it should not be cooler than 195. Aim for 200 degrees, or just off the boil if you are using a manual brewing method. Often, the wrong temperature isnt a user error its a mechanical error. The vast majority of electric home drip brewers just do not get the water hot enough for proper brewing. The easiest solution is manual brewing, where you can control the temperature of the water. Electric brewers that correctly balance time, turbulence, and temperature are available, though they generally cost more than the most common electric drip brewers. Dont trip over temperature!

A hand holds a timer which reads 4 minutes, while hot water is poured over coffee grounds in a French Press

Coffee Brewing Blunder #4 Wrong Time

Like grind, brew time changes according to the brew method. As is the case with all other coffee brewing blunders this is all about proper extraction. Brew too long and you over-extract the coffee into bitter tastes. Too little contact with water and the coffee will under-extract and may taste sour or grassy. Generally, brew times are in the neighborhood of five (5) minutes but can vary greatly when you consider all brewing methods, from 25 seconds for espresso to 12 hours for cold brew. Review manufacturers instruction and check out some of our brewing tutorials. Dont get in trouble with time! Your coffee moves through many hands before it arrives in your hands. Brewing coffee properly isnt rocket science, but it does require your attention to a few simple techniques to avoid common coffee brewing blunders.

Have these tips helped you with your brew? Let us know in the comments below, or give us a shout out on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.

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